Goji Berries: the Treasury of Antioxidants, Amino Acids, and Minerals
Goji berries, with their bright appetizing color and unusual flavor, have been gaining popularity in many countries since the beginning of 21 century. By now, they have provoked many controversial opinions – from being a trend among health-oriented people to skeptical remarks of nutritionists. What are the reasons of both parties? Let’s consider the facts about this unique plant to make conclusions.
What Are Goji Berries?
These are bright orange or red berries that come from China. The plant and its unique healthful properties had been known long before it was first mentioned in ancient textbooks dating to about 200 A.D. It was reported by the Chinese authorities that goji berries have been systematically grown in the province of Ningxia and some other regions in north-central China since 1400. In the 1950s their commercial growth began. They come to the market in two varieties – dried and in juices. This is because when ripe, these tender berries are very perishable and must be processed quickly.
Are Dried Goji Berries As Good As Fresh?
Goji berries are consumed fresh, dried, and as juices. Fresh goji berries` taste is unique and is similar to a combination of tastes of mild nut, tomato and cranberry. Pure juice has the taste of sweet fruity tomato juice with nut and acidic flavor. On the market, the berries are available in their dried and juice variants. These two varieties of food products made from goji berries preserve the whole set of nutrients as that of fresh berries. Dried berries, as any dehydrated food, have denser concentrations of nutrients, but are slightly inferior to fresh ones in flavor.
Are Dried Goji Berries Healthy?
According to Chinese ancient books, people used these berries to treat a number of health issues like age-related eye-problems, high blood pressure, fever, and diabetes. At those times, the only way to preserve them for the year-long use and transportation was drying. The fruits were dried in full sun on open trays, as they are dried now. Now the process of mechanical dehydration during 48 hours is employed, which allows to preserve all healthy nutrients that are available in fresh berries.
It is important to know how to store dried goji berries properly to fully preserve their health properties. The best storage temperatures are between 0 and 4.4C, so if the dried berries are refrigerated, the storage time should be up to two years. If they are not refrigerated – up to one year. The storage temperature should not exceed 30C, and humidity should be less than 50%.
What Are the Health Benefits of Dried Goji Berries?
Goji berries are an amazing natural treasury of the essential nutrients that a person requires to be healthy and energetic. They have significant levels of protein, carbohydrates, linoleic acid, and Omega 6 fatty acids (in seeds). The berries present a rich source of dietary fiber due to high density of polysaccharides (10% per serving of the daily fiber intake). They are rich in vitamins and also contain 11 essential and 22 trace minerals. The distinguishing feature of goji berries is their exceptionally high content of amino acids – 18 with the total content of 11g per 100g of dried fruits. They have the densest micronutrient content that is found in one plant food. Goji berries also contain great quantities of phytochemicals that are responsible for antioxidant protection. Laboratory analyses have revealed their extremely high antioxidant radical absorbance capacity – 30,300 ORAC units per 100g of dried fruits, which is six times higher than in cultivated blueberries and red raspberries. Moreover, the comparison of goji berries with blueberries, strawberries and red raspberries as for the content of the main nutrients and micronutrients has shown their superiority.
Have Goji Berries Got Any Hidden Secrets?
Strange may it seem, but no strong evidence of healthy qualities of goji berries supported by studies has been presented by now. Over the past 30 years more than one hundred medical research studies have been completed, but most of them have been conducted in China and India – the countries that have strong commercial interests. One of the studies has shown that drinking goji juice may raise energy levels, improve sleep qualities, mood, and bowel regularity, but these claims have not been proved by well-designed clinical trials.
At the same time, taking into consideration goji berries` abundance in nutrients and antioxidants, there are many reasons to believe that they do have certain health benefits. They can really be “longevity” berries, as they are sometimes referred to. They for sure provide overall health improvement and help stay young and beautiful. For example, they can be used as a component of weight loss management due to the high fiber content, which allows to reach the feeling of fullness and satiety with small servings. At present, the berries are being thoroughly studied, especially because of the side effects that they can cause in people who take blood thinners, medicines against diabetes and for regulation of blood pressure. Their qualities as for protection of the heart, liver, and brain cells from damage as well as their anti-cancer properties are under investigation.
What Are the Benefits of Dried Goji Berries?
The answer to this question concerns the nutritious properties of goji berries and the ways of handling them. First of all, they contain high concentrations of nutrients that can be safely preserved during a comparatively long period of time (from one to two years). They can be transported and stored easily and don`t require any chemical substances to add for preserving their natural appearance and taste. The last, but not the least is that there are many ways of what to do with goji berries. You may eat them without cooking, like raisins, or add them to salads, soups, cereals and muesli, snacks and trail mixes. They can be used in baked products and brewed as herbal teas.
How to Eat Dried Goji Berries?
To make goji berries taste closer to their fresh flavor, soak them in enough water to cover them for one or two hours. Then drain the soak water (you may drink it – it is delicious and healthy) and blend the berries to use them for preparing smoothies, cocktails, yogurts, ice-cream, and sauces.
Here are some tasty dried goji berry recipes:
- Apricot and goji gelato.
Drain 50 grams of goji berries and reserve the soak water. Break 2 bananas into 3-4 pieces and add to the blender. Add 4 fresh apricots without stones and goji berries to the blender and blend until smooth, adding the soak water a little at a time. You can keep this delicious and nutritious gelato for several days in the fridge.
- Goji energy bars.
Blend a handful of goji berries together with a cup of walnuts, half a cup of almonds and 5-6 dates in a food processor. Roll the mix into balls or spread in a deep pan to make bars.
- Trail mix.
Add to your favorite trail mix or make your own by mixing your favorite nuts, dried fruits, and dried goji berries. Add some chocolate or peanut butter chips.
- Soak a handful of dried goji berries in water for ten minutes. Once they are plump and juicy, blend them and add to your favorite smoothie or yogurt. You can also add whole soaked goji berries.
How To Grow Goji Berries?
Goji berry shrubs can be grown in the garden. The climatic conditions for growing them in the open air should be as follows:
- Winter temperatures not lower than – 15C.
- Sun at least six, better eight hours during the daytime.
Here are some tips on how to plant and take care of them:
- Avoid planting near potatoes and tomatoes as the berries belong to the same family of Solanacea and can be easily affected by diseases.
- Buy a small shrub that is two years old. It is better than to grow it from a seed.
- After the shrub is planted, add well-rotted organic compost.
- Preferred soil pH is 6.5 – 8.2.
- Water lavishly during the first year of its life.
- For more berries, pinch all the plant`s branches.
- Picking time is from mid-summer till late fall.
Goji Berries Nutritious Facts
100g of goji berries contain the following amount of the most important nutrients:
- Protein – 10.6g (20% of RDA)
- Fat – 3.6g
- Carbohydrates – 22g(11% of RDA)
- Polysaccharides – 49mg (10% of RDA)
- Dietary fiber – 7.4g (15% of RDA)
- Selenium – 50mcg
- Potassium – 1,130mg (24% of RDA)
- Zinc – 2mg (18% of RDA)
- Calcium – 112mg
- Iron – 18.42mg (100% of RDA)
- Vitamin C – 29mg (37% of RDA)
- Beta-carotene – 7.45mg
- Vitamin B1 – 0.16mg
- Vitamin B2 – 1.3mg (100% of RDA)
- Amino acids – 8.37mg
RDA – Required Daily Amount
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